Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., plans to introduce a bill as early as July that will “respond” to the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling Tuesday that voided a critical part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Leahy told reporters after meeting privately with Senate Democrats that the law should not be gutted by “five justices who decide they know a lot better,” than the hundreds of lawmakers who voted for the law nearly five decades ago and reauthorized it in 2006.
So next month, Leahy said, his panel will begin holding hearings on a bill to counter the ruling, though he would not say specifically what he hopes to include in the legislation.
The court struck down the portion of the law that requires a formula for deciding which states need federal approval to alter voting laws.
The court’s majority opinion ruled that when Congress reauthorized the law in 2006, it used outdated information that no longer applies today.
Leahy called the opinion, “stunning,” and said he agreed with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.,who told ABC earlier Tuesday that the ruling represented “a dagger to the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
Leahy suggested the Supreme Court made an uninformed decision based on the questions they asked lawyers for each side during oral arguments.
“They did not have the experience of people who worked on this in both parties,” Leahy said. “It raises questions.”
In the House, Democratic lawmakers also criticized the decision and pledged to undo it through legislation. “The fact that the Supreme Court did the wrong thing should inspire Congress to do the right thing,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said the court ruling amounted to “cynically legislating from the bench, Jim Crow style” adding “a call for strong swift action from the Congress is now front and center.”
But with Republicans in charge of the House, it’s not likely a bill will be allowed onto the floor that would reinstate the portion of the voting rights act voided by the court. It could put Republicans in a tough predicament, however, as they have long struggled to increase their minority voting base. Democrats could easily use it as an election year issue and put GOP candidates on the spot.